Patrick D. Pagnano ‘Empire Roller Disco’ captures the Disco era in NYC

Patrick D. Pagnano is an Italian – American street photographer who started shooting the vivid characters who populate New York City streets in the 1970.

He is one of the documentarians of the Disco era. It was a now mythical time when New York City went bankrupt, went dark, and Disco, Punk, and Hip-Hop were born. Perhaps English author Charles Dickens said it best when he described London and Paris in the period of the French Revolution this way:

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way…

~ Charles Dickens, Tale of Two Cities, 1859 ~

That fairly describes New York City in the 1970s when crumbling Victorian infrastructure provided dangerous, but fertile ground for all sorts of things.

New York is a city of people from other places. When we come here, many of us dream of finding our own Studio 54, CBGBs, or 1520 Sedgwick. Those days are gone (and good riddance), but Pagnano was there and in his photography and  books, you can see what he saw without getting mugged!

Patrick D. Pagnano in New York City

You can see work by Pagnano in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art, the Brooklyn Museum, The Museum of the City of New York, and the New York Public Library.

In 2002, Pagnano published Shot on the Street, a collection of black and white, and color photographs of New York City during the 1970’s and 1980’s.

Patrick D. Pagnano Empire Roller Disco opens at Benrubi Gallery in Chelsea, Manhattan with a reception on Thursday, January 25, 2018 from 6 – 8 pm. The exhibition runs through March 17, 2018.

Empire Roller Disco was a Brooklyn landmark that pioneered Roller Disco which you can still see in the summer just west of the Naumburg Bandshell in Central Park.

Empire Roller Disco was in Crown Heights which at the time was in the same downward spiral as the rest of the City. Roller Disco is creative and joyful. The gallery notes “the ability of the space to change the narrative and experiences of the community.”

As a salve for today’s chaotic moment, maybe we should bring back Roller Disco.


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